Cadiz’s most famous beach, Playa de La Caleta, is right in the old town. Get there an hour before sundown and watch the sun dip gently into the Atlantic, as the small fishing boats are painted gold by its final rays. This beach imitated Havana’s craggy harbour in the James Bond film Die Another Day – when Halle Berry famously emerged, goddess-like, from the sea. The cove is marked by a distinctive Moorish-style white balneario (spa) and flanked by two ancient fortresses (Castillo de Santa Catalina and Castillo de San Sebastián).
See Cádiz in all its fish-frying, joke-cracking glory at the lively Mercado Central de Abastos. Originally built in 1838, Spain’s oldest covered market was reopened 10 years ago after restoration and remodelling, yet still retains its 19th-century allure. More than 150 stalls sell everything from sushi (at Gadisushi) and Argentinean empanadas (Argendarte) to fresh tuna and live snails. The market is best visited on Friday or Saturday, when crowds eat fried fish and swill ice-cold manzanilla (dry fino sherry) and kids chase seagulls as big as bulldogs.
• Plaza de la Libertad,Mon–Fri 9am–3.30pm, Sat 9am-4pm
Time for tapas
Taberna Casa Manteca, founded in 1953, is hardly Cádiz’s best-kept secret, but it’s still a local favourite (Rick Stein is a fan). Most days you’ll find chatty gaditanos shoulder to shoulder glugging vino and tucking into tapas served on white greaseproof paper under a stuffed bull’s head. Jostle for position at a bar backed with old bottles with peeling, yellow labels. The walls are adorned with bullfighting paraphernalia, and a random picture of Nelson Mandela. Order a tapa of chicharrones for €2 (thinly sliced cured pork belly with lemon and herbs) and queso payoyo (goat’s cheese, €2.50). Wash it down with a glass of full-bodied, locally made Garum wine (€3).
• Calle Corralón de los Carros 66, on Facebook, daily noon–4pm, 8.30pm-12.30am
© Getty Cathedral of Cadiz at the atlantic coastline. Panorama of Cadiz in the golden light
Enjoy a breakfast worthy of a monarch at the aptly named Cáfe Royalty. Opened in 1912, it was a popular spot for painters, politicians and musicians, but closed in the 1930s as the country was plunged into civil war. It was restored to its Renaissance-style glory by a local family more than seven decades later and relaunched in 2012. Sit beneath the cafe’s striking pink ceiling – decorated with cheery angels, exotic birds and lashings of gold leaf – while indulging in coffee and homemade chocolate cake served from a silver trolley.
• Plaza Candelaria,caferoyalty.com, daily 11am-11pm
Take a constitutional
La Pepa, Spain’s first constitution, was established in Cádiz over 200 years ago after more than 1,400 meetings. The revolutionary charter, a testament to the grit and liberal values of the city’s residents, aimed to establish national sovereignty, divide power and ultimately give rights to working people. It was passed on 19 March 1812 as Napoleon’s troops battered but failed to conquer the resilient seafaring city. Historic La Pepa locations include the Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, where it was passed, and Plaza San Antonio, where it was once read aloud. Afterwards, wander along the tree-filled Alameda Apodaca promenade, which is scattered with commemorative statues and offers views over the Bay of Cádiz.
© Getty an aerial view of the roofs of Cadiz, Spain, from the belfry of its Cathedral
Fresh fish, old style
In the south-western La Viña district of the old town, Restaurante El Faro appears a little tired from the outside, but once you step through its doors you’ll see why it’s a locals’ favourite. Despite starting life as a sailors’ tavern, El Faro has evolved into a classy restaurant and is known for its locally caught seafood (from €18) and tortillitas de camarones (prawn fritters, €2.40 each). The grand interior is all dark wood, crisp tablecloths, azulejo tiles and ageing photos of past diners – and the waiters still wear bow ties and white jackets.
• Calle San Félix 15, elfarodecadiz.com, daily 1pm-4pm, 8pm-11pm
Local art – and Tintin
Gallery-cum-shop Usted está aquí (You are here) is owned by Cádiz-born actor, Francisco Javier Benítez Muñoz and showcases the work of local artists. Javier opened his shop seven years ago and sells everything from black-and-white sketches of the city’s many watchtowers to offbeat, colourful impressions of Tintin lurking around Cádiz. Artist Emilio Jiménez decided to paint Tintin out of context purely because he liked the cartoon. Nevertheless, his art, a symbol of the gaditanos’ tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, has since become so popular you can see replicas in most gift shops around the city.
• Calle José del Toro 12, skayline.com, Mon-Fri 10.30am-2pm, 5.30pm-9pm, Sat 11am-2pm
© Getty Ancient Cadiz Cathedral. The waves on the winter Atlantic Ocean. Spain
Few places in the world have a Roman amphitheatre on the same street as a brothel-turned-theatre. Opposite the Arco de los Blanco (part of an ancient Roman gate where the castle of Cádiz once stood), Café Teatro Pay Pay is a dimly lit, red-walled theatre that looks and smells like an independent cinema. The bar is threaded with fairy lights, its walls clad in abstract art and posters for upcoming shows, from drag acts to flamenco. Grab a beer and pick a seat in front of the stage slightly bigger than a grand piano. Once teeming with international sailors, Pay Pay is now at the grass roots of Cádiz’s performance art movement and puts on various down-to-earth, often Spanish-speaking shows.
• 1 Calle Silencio,cafeteatropaypay.com, Wed-Sat 9pm-3am
Playa de la Caleta is a great place for making the most of the Andalucian sunshine, but it can get overcrowded in the summer. Luckily the province of Cádiz has around 76 beaches to choose from. Playa del Faro, less than an hour’s drive south, has serene turquoise water and wide stretches of golden sand. Not only is it a beach less-trodden, but it has history too – the Battle of Trafalgar took place just off this shore in 1805. Divide your time between wandering around the Cabo de Trafalgar lighthouse, lazing on the beach, and drinking at rustic, thatched Bar Las Dunas, at the point where the road runs into sand.
• Calle Cabo de Trafalgar 258, barlasdunas.es, open daily 9am-1am
© Getty The beach of Cabo de Trafalgar, Andalucía, Spain
Café Pelicano is Cádiz’s answer to Liverpool’s Cavern Club, showcasing local and international artists who play anything from jazz to rock’n’roll. Order a glass of vermouth (€5) pull up a red velvet chair and listen as the venue’s arched roof carries thunderous tones to your table. It’s only a few metres from the sea, and the fresh salty air that wafts in through a cinema-style curtain will keep you fairly clear-headed. It’s the kind of place where young, hip musos and veteran arty types start by tapping their feet but finish the night by breaking into a full-blown boogie.
• Avenue Fernández Ladreda 1, on Facebook, daily, 6pm-4am
When to go?
February for one of Europe’s biggest carnivals, with locals in fancy dress and music on every corner. Or for summer sun from June or September – the city doesn’t get too hot or too busy.
Where to stay?
A restored mansion in the old town, the Senator Cádiz, has doubles from €99 room-only. For a budget stay, hostel Casa Caracol, which is also in a period building, has dorm beds from €16 and doubles with shared bathroom from €40, both including breakfast.
Prices (£1 = €1.16)
Small beer around €1.30, coffee €1.50, meal for two with drinks in a mid-range restaurant €60.
Juan Alberto Romero Rodriguez is a Cádiz-born art historian and tour guide
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